A priest of the unofficial community tells of the Christmas celebration in a house, secretly, without decorations and without pomp. The official community suffers government controls. Part II of a series of testimonies.
Rome (AsiaNews) – In China there are communities that for years have had no opportunity to celebrate Christmas Mass: some unofficial communities that government authorities have targeted, removing priests and closing sacred buildings. This is another of the faces with which Christmas is celebrated in China by faithful who accept this suffering “for the Lord and for fidelity to His Church”. Here we present the testimony of a priest from the unofficial community, who resides in the north-west of China, and that of a priest from the official community in the north of the country. The latter, despite having the freedom to celebrate Mass in church, remains under the control of the Public Security guards. This is Part II of a series. For part one, click here.
We have neither church nor decorations. Our Sunday Eucharist is usually celebrated in a house of the faithful and even at Christmas it is no exception. You prepare a table, cover it with a white tablecloth, and prepare all you need for mass. About 100 faithful crowd the bedroom and anteroom to participate in the Eucharist. Since the external atmosphere is very tense, for security reasons we pull the window curtains, we keep the tone of our prayers low, so as not to attract the attention of the people passing by. Still for security reasons, during the Mass, the priest and the faithful do not sing any part of the liturgy, but only recite it. To create the Christmas atmosphere, the family that hosts the celebration prepares the crib.
This is our celebration of Christmas. Although a little simple, we are satisfied and grateful, because at least we still have the chance to celebrate it together. In other parishes of our diocese, in recent years priests have been forbidden to celebrate Christmas; several of their places of worship have been closed. Christmas celebrations are not permitted even in remote places. Because of this, in many places, the faithful have been without Christmas mass for years.
We willingly suffer for the Lord and for fidelity to His Church. Two thousand years ago the Savior was not born in similar circumstances? We hope to celebrate Holy Christmas in peace. We hope that our Church can soon enjoy religious freedom. Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Before Christmas, the faithful practice Christmas carols, and, according to tradition, preparations are made for the celebration. A few days before Christmas the church is decorated and in a convenient place the nativity scene and the Christmas tree are prepared. On Christmas Eve, after the Vigil Mass, the faithful make a show. After a short break, midnight Mass is celebrated, welcoming the Infant Jesus.
The government sends its officials every year before Christmas, including members of the United Front, the Office for Religious Affairs, the Neighborhood Committee and Public Security, on the one hand, to present good wishes, and on the other, to recommend paying attention to public safety and fire prevention. In the last two years they also recommend not allowing participation by young people (under 18). Thanks to the good relations and the benevolence of the local authorities, they simply say it out loud, but without actually prohibiting it. On Christmas Eve, the Public Security sends some guards to make sure there are no fires, thefts and accidents, until the end of the ceremony.